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MG Sales Talent Network 2nd October - Report

Oct 05, 2015
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Selling with Insight – Do you really know your customer?

Commoditisation and discounting is a relentless problem.  But if sellers are to differentiate their product and sell value, they need a deep understanding of their customer’s aspirations, challenges and worries. What is it that keeps them awake at night?  What are the big problems that they’re looking to fix this year?  What’s important to the individual, how do they tick, what turns them on and turns them off? 

These questions and others we asked three corporate travel buyers at the MG Sales Talent Network on Friday 2nd October. 

2 Oct STN speakers.jpeg 

l-r: Mark Gallen with the speakers, Carol Neil, Lauren Prager & Steve Proud 

 Here’s what they said:

1. Sales person’s approach

Carol Neil, Head of Corporate Travel, Nomura Plc

  • Prepare well. Carol explained that she expects sales people to find out about her in advance of a meeting by making enquiries to other people that know her.  “Use LinkedIn and reach out to my connections”, she suggested.
  • Listen and interpret the information provided.  Carol said that it isn’t always about money and she wants to speak to sales people that demonstrate a real understanding for Nomura’s ethos, challenges and aspirations.
  • Lead with one product or solution, don’t sell me everything.  Throwing everything at Carol is unlikely to persuade but more likely confuse.  “One step-at-a-time”, she cautioned. 
  • Love me.  “Demonstrate your passion for travel, Nomura and me”, enthused Carol.


Steve Proud, EMEA Travel Manager and Global Airline Programme Manager, Citi Shared Services

  • “I want to see value”, said Steve.  He explained that this doesn’t always mean price, he cited streamlining or service delivery by way of example.
  • Personalisation is key.  Know who I am, research me.
  • “We don’t know everything”, Steve continued.  Help educate me with information that is topical and relevant about what’s happening in your industry.  Use case studies but benchmark us against companies of a similar size to Citi.
  • Use social media networks to research and engage.


Lauren Prager, MCIPS, Global Category Manager – Travel at Anglo American

  • Tenacity is vital.  Lauren explained that it may not always be the right time when suppliers approach her, but the successful ones must demonstrate that they’re really interested by continuing to engage.
  • “Build an emotional connection so that there is trust and honesty”, advised Lauren.
  • Lauren declared a personal preference for phone calls rather than email contact.


2.  What does value mean to you? 

Carol Neil

Her ground transportation company sent an information sheet explaining the tube strikes in London in the summer, the impact they would have on travel and advice for moving around the capital.  She explained how useful the communication was, allowing her to simply forward it on to key bookers and travellers. 

Lauren Prager

“Safety is the most important thing even if this means paying more to ensure that the suppliers provide solutions that are 100% reliable”, said Lauren.

Steve Proud

Steve explained that most suppliers don’t understand the level to which security is the most important value-add to Citi.  He said that they would remove a hotel if it couldn’t deliver on security even if the price was attractive.  


3. Hot topics

Carol Neil

Carol described her priority to monitor airline travel targets.  In light of this her existing agent provided immense added value by installing a data analyst on the Nomura account who is responsible for providing reports and statistics to help Carol and her colleagues across the globe track volumes.

Lauren Prager

Lauren cited globalisation across the programme so that every opportunity is maximised, reporting and data is comprehensive across the globe and to manage security.

Steve Proud

“Consolidation of the programme so that there is visibility, cultural alignment and global reporting”, Steve said.  He went on to explain the focus to 24/7 service and ongoing improvements to the existing travel programme.


4. What does a ‘strategic relationship’ mean to you?

Steve Proud

Innovation. This could be website, apps, or simply in the office.

Carol Neil

A professional handover process that provides for changes to the key account team.

Lauren Prager

Building and maintaining and a relationship. 





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